At condos, aid depends on volunteers

Laws obliging condo associations to aid needy deemed unlikely

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Joe Kollin
Posted October 30, 2005


At the sprawling Hollybrook Golf & Tennis Club condominium in Pembroke Pines, volunteers bring ice and water to neighbors who can't get them at the clubhouse.

But in other condo communities, there is no help for the aged and infirm.
While state legislators may investigate how to provide aid to stranded seniors, don't expect laws to place that burden on associations and landlords.

"I can't see 80-year-old directors who are equally incapacitated having the responsibility for 90-year-old residents. It's crazy," said Virgil Rizzo, the state condo ombudsman.

State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, agrees.

"I don't think volunteerism is something you can legislate. You have to find the best examples and share how they do it with other associations," she said.

Association president Ron Pacella said Hollybrook, with 1,902 units, had a plan in place that included the involvement of local government.

"The city [of Pembroke Pines] has been extra good with water and ice, delivering it every day with police escorts," he said. "And the city social services people put a team into action to help about a dozen of our people whose units were destroyed by roof damage and can't live in them."

In Pompano Beach, residents of the 10-story Building 114 in the huge Palm Aire condo complex also went into action when the electricity went out.

According to association president Barney Bliman, about seven couples gathered meat and fish, cooked the items on the association's two barbecue grills and "walked door-to-door on every floor to make sure everyone had a hot meal."

"I couldn't believe what I saw. It was great," he said.

However, in condo complexes run by several independent governing associations without a history of volunteerism, help was sporadic.

In Sunrise Lakes, a Sunrise complex with almost 8,000 units and a dozen governing associations, some groups made sure the Red Cross and Salvation Army brought aid. The same thing happened in Century Village of Pembroke Pines, which has nearly 8,000 apartments and more than 40 governing associations.

But other associations did nothing.

Rich said that illustrates why cities and counties must get more involved.

"It's clear that when in Sunrise Lakes no one goes in there for three days to make sure they have food and ice, something must be done," she said. "There was a massive breakdown in term of providing aid to seniors. You can't ask them to go to Markham Park [and other designated locations] for food and water. They would have to drive on roads without signals and signs. We need to go to them."